#BookReview Seven Days Of Us by Francesca Hornak @PiatkusBooks

seven days of usA warm, wry, sharply observed debut novel about what happens when a family is forced to spend a week together in quarantine over the holidays…

It’s Christmas, and for the first time in years the entire Birch family will be under one roof. Even Emma and Andrew’s elder daughter–who is usually off saving the world–will be joining them at Weyfield Hall, their aging country estate. But Olivia, a doctor, is only coming home because she has to. Having just returned from treating an epidemic abroad, she’s been told she must stay in quarantine for a week…and so too should her family.

For the next seven days, the Birches are locked down, cut off from the rest of humanity–and even decent Wi-Fi–and forced into each other’s orbits. Younger, unabashedly frivolous daughter Phoebe is fixated on her upcoming wedding, while Olivia deals with the culture shock of being immersed in first-world problems.

As Andrew sequesters himself in his study writing scathing restaurant reviews and remembering his glory days as a war correspondent, Emma hides a secret that will turn the whole family upside down.

In close proximity, not much can stay hidden for long, and as revelations and long-held tensions come to light, nothing is more shocking than the unexpected guest who’s about to arrive…  Published  October 19th 2017 by Piatkus (UK)

I wasn’t going to post a review today, but seeing as how I finished this book just a couple of hours ago I thought there’s no time like the present to start my New Year resolution (well one of them!) of writing my reviews as soon as I finish a book. Besides, being as this book covers the period of 23rd December through to New Years Eve, what more perfect time than now to let you know how much I really liked it!

Christmas themed books have taken off epically in the last few years, and if I’m honest, I tend to avoid a lot of them. For one, December is so maddeningly busy in this house that my reading tends to take a nose dive. I’m a stickler for keeping Christmas to December (I won’t eat a mince pie until the 1st December despite them being in shops from August and seriously loving them!), so picking up a Christmas book in July just wouldn’t be right for me. I’m always a bit wary that they might be a bit cheesy and sentimentally slushy (and I say this having read very few so am quite probably wrong!) and that puts me off a bit. Fear not though …. there is absolutely nothing slushy, sparkly or cheesy about this book.

The Birch family are about to face Christmas in quarantine, when eldest daughter Olivia returns from Liberia where she has been treating victims of a deadly and highly contagious virus. For seven whole days, Andrew and Emma, along with Olivia and youngest daughter Phoebe, must remain indoors, stuck together with no physical contact with the outside world. Already a fractured and resentful family, as tensions rise over the claustrophobic week, secrets are revealed, hidden resentments aired and home-truths shared.

Seven Days of Us is one of those books which relies heavily on characterization rather than plot, and Francesca Hornak certainly writes them very well. She draws each member of the Birch Family so intricately, catching mannerisms and personality traits with meticulous detail, so that each one becomes fully rounded, three dimensional characters who I felt I really understood individually.

While this book is set over the Christmas period, it isn’t really about Christmas. It’s about lost dreams and old resentments, new beginnings and fresh hope. As the family are forced to spend the week together, an opportunity to get to know each other again and understand each other opens up, but with shocking secrets about to revealed, is the tie of family enough to bring these four people, so different from each other, together again as a family.

Filled with flaws – selfishness and bitterness, uncertainty and regrets, there’s a very raw and honest aspect to this glimpse into a family at the brink of falling apart. I liked how the author presented each of the characters as complicit in the dysfunctional dynamics of the family, while allowing the reader to understand intimately what drives their actions. All the while I was hoping they could come together and find peace, despite the twists, turns and tears that lead them to it.

Seven Days of Us was a perfect read for me over the last few days, and I don’t think I could have chosen a better festive read for myself. Although I definitely would recommend this book at any time of the year. Heartbreaking and heartwarming in equal measure, without a side order of cheese, this poignant and honest book won my heart this Christmas.

I read an advance proof courtesy of the Amazon Vine Program

 

#BlogTour #BookReview – CopyCat by Alex Lake – @HarpercollinsUk @FictionPubTeam

copycatYour stalker is everywhere.
Your stalker knows everything.
But the real problem is that your stalker is you.

Sarah Havenant discovers–when an old friend points it out–that there are two Facebook profiles in her name.

One, she recognizes: it is hers. The other, she has never seen. But everything in it is accurate. Recent photos of her and her friends, her and her husband, her and her kids. Even of her new kitchen. A photo taken inside her house.

She is bemused, angry, and worried. Who was able to do this? Any why?

But this, it soon turns out, is just the beginning. It is only now–almost as though someone has been watching, waiting for her to find the profile–that her problems really start… 

Published 5th September 2017 by Harper Collins UK  

You know when you pick up a book and right from the very first page you’re hooked? Well Copycat is THAT book. Hugely addictive, tense and chilling right from the first page, this is a fast-paced, edge-of-your seat reading from beginning to end.

Copycat starts when successful Doctor and happily married mum of three, Sarah, discovers she has been victim of what first appears to be identity fraud on Facebook. When an old friend gets in touch asking which profile is best to be friends on, Sarah’s attention is drawn to the copycat account. But closer inspection reveals something much more sinister than she originally presumed, when photo’s of her life and home appear as it happens on the cloned timeline.

I’ve read a few books recently which feature Facebook, and seriously it provides the perfect vehicle for intense psychological drama. But Copycat manages to notch up the chills a level, due to the absolute credibility of someone setting up a fake account and using it to cause distress, unease and paranoia. When the focus of Sarah’s torment shifts from Facebook into real life, it’s clear someone really has it in for her and will stop at nothing to seek their revenge. But what has Sarah done that’s so bad? And who’s behind the campaign of terror and manipulation?

Wow, this is such a clever book, twisting truth and casting doubt everywhere. As Sarah becomes increasingly scared and her sanity is called into question, I really felt for her. I was surprised in some ways how easily her husband Ben began to doubt his wife and wanted to scream at him as he too plays right into the perpetrators hands and leaves Sarah increasingly isolated and vulnerable. I had an inkling about midway through who was behind the cruel and twisted psychological assault on Sarah, but I had no idea why. As the book raced towards the conclusion, the menace and threat intensifies and I literally burned through the final chapters unable to look away or put the book down for a second.

CopyCat is very, very clever. It’s truly psychologically thrilling, with a twisted, complex villain and a victim who’s mind unravels right before the readers eyes. And I loved the ending, with a final twist that leaves an unsettling feeling that this is a story that isn’t quite over. Sinister, clever and chilling and absolutely gripping, Copycat is a must for fans of psychological thrillers.

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#BookReview – The way Back To Us by Kay Langdale – @Hodderbooks

The way back to usSince their youngest son, Teddy, was diagnosed with a life-defining illness, Anna has been fighting: against the friends who don’t know how to help; against the team assigned to Teddy’s care who constantly watch over Anna’s parenting; and against the impulse to put Teddy above all else – including his older brother, the watchful, sensitive Isaac.

And now Anna can’t seem to stop fighting against her husband, the one person who should be able to understand, but who somehow manages to carry on when Anna feels like she is suffocating under the weight of all the things that Teddy will never be able to do.

As Anna helplessly pushes Tom away, he can’t help but feel the absence of the simple familiarity that should come so easily, and must face the question: is it worse to stay in an unhappy marriage, or leave? 

Published August 10th by Hodder & Stoughton (UK)  

It’s taken me forever to start this review. I had no idea where or how to begin. The Way Back To Us is such a touching  book, written with aching honesty and raw emotion, it feels as if nothing I can say can go anywhere near conveying how good it is.

I do not have a disabled child, and can not come close to knowing how it feels. I do work with families of severely disabled young adults though and what I can say is that I saw them in Anna. The weariness of the daily struggle and fight against the system, the intrusiveness of strangers flitting in and out of your life and making decisions, the loss of identity and becoming a ‘case’, the constant need to defend and justify oneself and the brutally honest fact of the unfairness of it all. I’ve seen it on the faces of others and I think that in this book, Kay Langdale gets it absolutely perfectly right.

The Way Back To Us tells the story of a family under incredible strain, and I found I had intense admiration for both Anna and Tom, parents of Teddy who lives with a life limiting and progressive illness. However, this is an incredibly frank account of the reality of  life with a disabled child, Anna and Tom are both flawed and while it’s easy to say “I wouldn’t be like that”, Kay Langdale manages to paint their faults in a way that the reader can understand and empathise with. I felt Anna’s frustration and anger at everyone, and felt Tom’s yearning to feel at ease. These character’s actions and feelings are not always pretty, but they are real and true.

The true star of this book though for me was Issac, Anna and Tom’s older child. The book includes chapters written from his perspective, and I found his voice utterly heart breaking. He takes on the responsibility of everyone’s happiness, silently watching out for his mother, always thinking of ways to include his brother, never asking for anything for himself. When the focus is on one child, out of necessity as it is in this story, it’s easy to forget the role that siblings play. I won’t lie, Issac made me cry, the quiet linchpin and peacemaker of the family with more wisdom than his years should allow.

The Way Back To Us is a beautifully told story of a fragile family searching to bring themselves back together as one. I took a lot from this book – Anna’s bristling at certain terms will definitely stick in my mind. I think the thing I take most of all though is a reminder that we can never know what other people are going through, defensiveness is a survival mechanism and the real barriers come from misunderstanding and miscommunication.

 

 

 

 

 

 

#BookReview – Broken Branches by M. Johnathan Lee – @HideawayFall

Broken branches‘Family curses don’t exist. Sure, some families seem to suffer more pain than others, but a curse? An actual curse? I don’t think so.’

A family tragedy was the catalyst for Ian Perkins to return to the isolated cottage with his wife and young son. But now they are back, it seems yet more grief might befall the family.

There is still time to act, but that means Ian must face the uncomfortable truth about his past. And in doing so, he must uncover the truth behind the supposed family curse. 

Published July 27th by Hideaway Fall (UK) 

 

 

I have to be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect from Broken Branches – the blurb gives very little away, neither does the cover. I wasn’t even one hundred percent certain what genre this book would fall into! Was it a ghost story? A thriller? However, I was intrigued by this mysterious little book and wanted to give it a shot. I finally managed to read it a few days ago and despite some initial misgivings about whether this book was going to be something I’d enjoy, I ended up really liking it and kicking myself a little at not getting around to it sooner.

Broken Branches tells the story of Ian, current owner of the creepy and mysterious Cobweb Cottage. It’s been passed down the family for generations – always to the eldest living child of the former owner. However, Ian’s family history isn’t a happy one and has been beset by tragedy after tragedy – believed by many to be the result of a curse. As Ian decides to delve into the family’s murky past and solve the mystery of the curse, he finds himself drawn into a dark spiral of obsession and paranoia. Is he about to become the next victim of the relentless curse?

Right from the start this is a story that grips you, with beautifully atmospheric writing casting an eerie and foreboding spell. It’s told mainly from Ian himself, but in two time frames – both as a child growing up at Cobweb Cottage and as the current owner- a husband and father of a small son himself. I liked the opportunity to have glimpses into the family history from a more naive and uncertain younger Ian, and then fitting everything together with older Ian piece by piece.

The author does an amazing job of setting the scene, diverting attention and leading the reader down a path right until the very end, before turning everything completely on its head. There’s an unsettling and suspenseful tension throughout with a deliciously Gothic air that had me glued to the pages. Broken Branches surprised me – both in how much I actually enjoyed it and by the story, which took a turn I wasn’t expecting in the slightest and caused me to gasp out loud. A short book, this one is ideal for the coming dark autumn evenings, to curl up beside a warm fire with – although it may leave you jumpingly unnerved as the wind whistles outside!

(I read an advance proof courtesy of the publisher)

#BookReview – The Silk Weavers Wife by Debbie Rix (@Bookouture)

the silk weavers wife‘On the way back down the grand staircase to the hall, her eye was caught by a portrait, hanging in a particularly dark corner of a landing. It was of a young woman, seated at an easel; she was painting a silk moth, its eggs nestling on a mulberry leaf.’

1704: Anastasia is desperate to escape her controlling and volatile father and plans to marry in secret. But instead of the life she has dreamed of, she finds herself trapped in Venice, the unwilling wife of a silk weaver.

Despite her circumstances, Anastasia is determined to change her fate…

2017: Millie wants more from her relationship and more from her life. So when her boss Max abruptly ends their affair, she takes the opportunity to write a feature in Italy.

Staying in a gorgeous villa, Millie unexpectedly falls in love with the owner, Lorenzo. Together they begin to unravel an incredible story, threaded through generations of silk weavers.

And Millie finds herself compelled to discover the identity of a mysterious woman in a portrait…

Published July 19th 2017 by Bookouture (Uk) 

When I read historical fiction, what I really, really want is to be completely transported to another time and place. I want rich and evocative description, an epic journey of discovery, awe inspiring battles against adversity and a romance to sweep me away. The Silk Weavers Wife fits the bill pretty damn well!

Switching between past and present, the book tells the story of two women in the midst of a metamorphosis. In the 21st century, Millie is 38 and in the midst of a messy affair with her married boss and her dreams of a family of her own are starting to fade. Rewind four hundred years, and Anastasia has been denied marriage to her true love by her cruel and violent father and forced into a loveless marriage to pay off a debt.

I absolutely adored the sections set in the 1700’s as Debbie Rix brings to life the sights and sounds of  early eighteenth century Italy – transporting the reader effortlessly between the rural tranquility of Lake Garda and the bustle and noise of Venice. Anastasia is everything you want in a heroine – brave, passionate and determined to be independent. Given the time and her gender, Anastasia might easily have accepted her fate, but she can not be contained, and inspired by the silk moths she observes while a prisoner in her husbands home, she sets about a metamorphosis into an educated, self sufficient woman of talent, with a strong sense of loyalty.

Millie is somewhat of a contrast. Her trap is of her own making and I found it frustrating that despite being an intelligent woman, she was settling for being the mistress of the unbearably arrogant Max. But whether the prison is enforced or self inflicted, this book is about finding the courage to make changes and transform your own destiny, and ties together nicely the stories of both women.

In both past and present, I found the backdrop of the Italian Silk industry fascinating and absorbing! From the larvae of the silk moth to the exquisite finished pieces of silk, I was intrigued. I can only imagine the dedication and work that went into creating such beautiful material using ancient processes and thoroughly enjoyed learning a little about it.

I enjoyed The Silk weavers Wife, in particular Anastasia’s section, and found myself completely absorbed and enchanted while reading about her life. I also thought the romantic element was done very well, both in past and present, and was enough to sweep the reader up in without overshadowing this gorgeous story. With beautiful descriptions, a brave and inspiring heroine and the fascinating glimpse into the ancient art of silk making, I savoured this book and looked forward to a chance to pick it up again. A winner for me.

(I read an E-copy courtesy of the publisher and netgalley)

 

#BlogTour BookReview – Any Dream Will Do by Debbie Macomber @arrowpublishing #anydreamwilldo

any dream will doShay Benson adored her younger brother. She did all she could to keep Caden on the straight and narrow. But one day her best intentions got Shay into the worst trouble of her life. By protecting Caden, Shay sacrificed herself.

Drew Douglas adored his wife. But since losing Katie, all he could do was focus on their two beautiful children; everything else came a distant second.

Shay and Drew are each in need a fresh start, and when they meet by chance it’s an unexpected blessing for them both. Drew helps Shay to get back on her feet, and she reignites his sense of purpose. 

But when a devastating secret is uncovered, Shay and Drew’s new lives are threatened. It will take all of their strength, faith and trust to protect the bright future they dream of.  

Published 10th August by Arrow (UK) 

I seem to be making a habit recently of reading books by authors I’ve never managed to get to before. Despite having a couple of her books tucked away, Debbie Macomber is one such author. After reading Any Dream Will Do I’m literally kicking myself for this – why have I left it so long? I absolutely loved this charming, uplifting and moving book.

Shay hoped her life had turned a corner, she had a job and her wild past seemed to be behind her. But when her brother comes to her for help, she can’t turn him away and this lands her in prison. Forward three years later, freed from jail and with no where or no one to turn to, she finds herself in an open church. Drew, pastor of the church, is still mourning the untimely death of his beloved wife and struggling to juggle being a single dad with his church duties. But when Shay wanders in, he senses hope for the first time in a long time and in helping her, helps himself, his children and his community.

After reading so many gritty thrillers, Any Dream Will Do was like a breath of fresh air. Yes, there’s some serious scenes with some upsetting and violent consequences, however Debbie Macomber’s compassionate, empathy filled writing makes this book incredibly joyous and inspiring. The theme of the book is second chances, recogognising that good people make bad choices, and how small acts of kindness and faith in your fellow humans can literally turn lives around. And all this is conveyed with a charm that never wanders into the saccharine, despite the risks it easily could do.

I adored the relationship between Shay and Drew and I have so much respect for Macomber that despite Shay’s circumstances, there is a mutual gain and appreciation from both sides. This isn’t a hero, whisking a poor victim up and making everything better. It’s equal, both learning and moving forward to make a better life. They both make decisions that may not have been the right ones, but for the right reasons and I thought the point about bad choices not necessarily equating to bad people was delivered beautifully.

Any Dream Will Do is clearly influenced by the author’s Christian faith, however it never, ever feels preachy (which would be guaranteed to switch me off)  and is very subtle. It just reflects on acts of kindness and forgiveness – traits that anyone can relate to and appreciate. I welled up a couple of times reading this book, and it genuinely made me feel happy and hopeful. In a world where horrific stories of violence and suffering are daily occurrences, it’s like a little ray of light restoring faith in humankind. Absolutely feel good reading, I enjoyed this one very much.

( I read a copy courtesy of the publisher)

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#BookReview – I Know Where She Is by S.B Caves @Canelo_co @SB_Caves

i know where she isAn explosive, gripping thriller for fans of Karin Slaughter, Linwood Barclay and Karen Dionne, don’t miss this heart-stopping debut.

On the tenth anniversary of her daughter Autumn’s abduction, Francine receives an anonymous note containing just five words: I KNOW WHERE SHE IS

When a young woman approaches her the next day claiming to have sent the letter Francine wants to dismiss it as a cruel, twisted joke.

But the stranger knows things that only Autumn would know.

It soon becomes clear that Francine must go to dark places in order to learn the truth about her child’s kidnapping.

She will discover that danger comes from unexpected sources. She will do things she never imagined herself capable of.

But will Francine get her daughter back – or is it too late? 

Published 14th August 2017 by Canelo (UK)  

When I picked up this book I had no idea I was about to be thrown head first into an action packed, utterly gripping, edge-of-your-seat ride. There’s no gentle introduction – right from the beginning this is high tension reading, with dramatic, explosive scenes coming one after the other at breakneck speed.

The book starts at the approach to the 10 year anniversary of Francine’s daughter’s disappearance. Francine is a mess – drinking to excess then overexercising to counteract the damage. Her fragility and brittleness transcends from the page, and with the help of her aloof, distant and exasperated ex husband, it’s unclear how reliable she is. When first the letter and then the strange and disturbing Lena appear,  I had no idea if this was a trick, a desperate delusion or in fact real.

As Francine discovers more about Autumn’s disappearance and the intervening years, a sense of dread and horror settled over me. There’s some disturbing and upsetting themes covered, and I was physically shaken at some of the scenes. This book is pretty dark – more so than I originally anticipated. Yet there’s a sense of determination, unbreakable spirit and a fight for survival throughout, which had me gripped and praying for a positive resolution.

What I really liked about this book was the developement of Francine, from broken and unstable to quite frankly, kick ass. Yes, there’s quite a lot of suspension of belief needed here (for reasons I can’t really go into to avoid giving away spoilers) but the action scenes towards the end literally had me holding my breath. I thought I’d worked out another big secret, which I expected to be revealed at the end and was surprised when the book petered out much more quietly than I expected. I may have misread the hints, but it just felt slightly unfinished and could have done with a little more closure in my opinion. Overall though, this is a gut-punching, fast paced read which I couldn’t put down. I’d definitely read more by this author in future.

(I read an advance e-copy courtesy of the publisher and netgalley)

#BookReview The Vanishing Of Audrey Wilde by Eve Chase @MichaelJBooks

tvaw*** From the author of the immensely popular Black Rabbit Hall, comes Eve Chase’s new novel The Vanishing of Audrey Wilde *** 

From the present day . . . 

Applecote Manor captivates Jessie with it promise of hazy summers in the Cotswolds. She believes it’s the perfect escape for her troubled family. But the house has an unsettling history, and strange rumours surround the estate.

to the fifties . . .

When teenage Margot and her three sisters arrive at Applecote during the heatwave of ’59, they find their aunt and uncle still reeling from the disappearance of their daughter Audrey five years before.

The sisters are drawn into the mystery of Audrey’s vanishing – until the stifling summer takes a shocking, deadly turn. Will one unthinkable choice bind them together, or tear them apart?

Step back in time for a richly evocative mystery, where the beauty of a Cotswolds summer is vividly contrasted with the violence which shatters it. 

Published 13th July 2017 by Penguin (UK)  

If you follow me on social media then there’s a good chance you’ve heard me shouting my love for this book over the last couple of days. I make no apologies – I adored it. You know that feeling when you settle down with a book and immediately know you’re going to love it? The Vanishing Of Audrey Wilde is one of those books and I savoured every single word.

The book is told in two, alternating time frames. Jessie in the present day is the second wife to a man who lost his wife in tragic circumstances and step mother to resentful and distant Bella. She’s never felt good enough as a replacement for Bella’s mother but hopes a move to the country will cement them as a family and banish the ghosts of the past. Bewitched by the stunning but derelict Applecote Manor, Jessie is convinced this is the place to bring them all together. But Applecote Manor has ghosts of it’s own…

The second time frame is 1959. Margot Wilde and her three sisters have been sent to live with their Aunt and Uncle at Applecote. The girls are intent on enjoying one last, glorious summer together before the eldest, Flora, leaves for Paris. But a sadness hangs over Applecote, in the memory of Audrey Wilde – the sisters beloved cousin who vanished mysteriously several years ago.

The alternating chapters of past and present compliment each other so well in this book. In the present, both Jessie and Bella are struggling to lay the ghost of her mother to rest, while in the past it’s the conspicuous absence of Audrey who haunts the Wilde sisters. The theme of loss and grief holding back and impacting the living runs throughout both periods, as does the need to let go to allow moving on.  There’s also a strong sense of coming of age in both era’s as well. Margot, ever overshadowed by her vivacious sisters struggles with her own identity, while Bella is caught up in grief at the loss of her mother and unable to forgive Jessie for taking her place. Despite there being sixty years between them, both girls are mesmerised by the missing Audrey and what happened to her.

The mystery surrounding Audrey is fascinating and had me gripped, I desperately wanted to know what had happened to her. Eve Chase’s beautifully, descriptive writing is so evocative that I could feel the heat and atmosphere of the scorching 1959 summer, almost see the haze of the sun and feel the excitement and nervous tension in the air as the Wilde sisters attempt to make this the summer of their lives, while the secrets and fate of their cousin hangs over them oppressively. In the present, there’s a tangibly cold, eerie and empty feeling to the house as Jessie tries to bring it back to life, with the suggestion of secrets being revealed around every corner.

The Vanishing Of Audrey Wilde is quite simply, stunning. It has that deliciously gothic vibe of family secrets with a haunting house at it’s center. It envolopes you in beautiful prose and transports you completely to a different time, while the mystery of what happened to Audrey will keep you gripped. I was captivated by this book, snatching any chance I could to loose myself in it. One of my favourite books this year, I can’t recommend it enough and will continue to do so to everyone I know!

(I read an advance ecopy courtesy of the publisher and Netgalley)

 

 

 

#BookReview Did You See Melody? by Sophie Hannah

did you see melodyPushed to the breaking point, Cara Burrows abandons her home and family and escapes to a five-star spa resort she can’t afford. Late at night, exhausted and desperate, she lets herself into her hotel room and is shocked to find it already occupied – by a man and a teenage girl.

A simple mistake on the part of the hotel receptionist – but Cara’s fear intensifies when she works out that the girl she saw alive and well in the hotel room is someone she can’t possibly have seen: the most famous murder victim in the country, Melody Chapa, whose parents are serving life sentences for her murder.

Cara doesn’t know what to trust: everything she’s read and heard about the case, or the evidence of her own eyes. Did she really see Melody? And is she prepared to ask herself that question and answer it honestly if it means risking her own life? 

Published August 10th 2017 by Hodder  

I have an admission to make… I have never read a book by Sophie Hannah before, yet she’s been on my radar as an author I thought I’d probably enjoy and I own a couple of her books already. Did You See Melody? was billed somewhat as a departure from her usual style, but with the intriguing blurb and that incredibly summery cover promising heat and tension, I was eager to read this book.

It starts with Cara, fleeing her husband and children for the luxurious spa resort in Arizona for an unknown reason, but clearly in a bit of a state. When she arrives in the middle of the night, exhausted, distressed and disorientated, she is sent to the wrong room. A room already occupied by a man and a strange girl. As Cara settles into the resort, she begins to hear stories of a high profile murder, a young girl called Melody who appeared to be the victim of unloving, cruel parents. But Cara begins to think she may just have seen Melody, but how can she have when Melody is supposed to be dead?

Did You See Melody? begins with a taut and attention grabbing beginning. Sophie Hannah perfectly encapsulates the panic, distress and tension felt by Cara as she flees the country. I was desperate to know what the secret was – why had she left her husband and her children. I’m going to be honest, when it was revealed it felt a bit implausible and a bit of an overreaction on Cara’s part. I’m not convinced with her reasons for being at the resort in the first place and it all felt a bit convenient.

However, the mystery surrounding Melody was fascinating. The story of her disappearance is told mainly in the form of a TV chat show transcript. I found it interesting and terrifying how the case is trialed by media, public perception on the people involved completely influenced by how the brash and slightly obsessed host, Juno, portrays them. It’s shocking, and scarily real, how susceptible we all are to suggestion and propaganda through the media and how they choose to portray someone, no matter how true or factually correct it may or may not be, directly impacts cases such as these. Mud sticks.

Hannah’s writing is undoubtedly gripping throughout, Did You See Melody? is a page turner and I read it in one day, snatching large chunks when I had a moment. It’s snappy, edgy and has a different kind of vibe to the psychological thrillers I’ve been reading recently giving it a fresh, relevant feel. However, I had a feeling of detachment from the story which made me feel conflicted. On the one hand, I couldn’t put it down and found the case of Melody Chappa interesting, while on the other I struggled to like or care for any of the characters – I found a lot of them annoying, particularly the loud and overbearing Tarin, a wealthy and over the top fellow guest who Cara teams up with to solve the mystery.  Overall, while I didn’t love it – missing a more emotional involvement with the characters and story and finding some of the plot less than credible -I did like this book. It was a gripping easy read, ideal for those days on a sun lounger while soaking up the sun.

(I read an advance readers copy courtesy of the publisher)

#Blogtour #Bookreview The Wardrobe Mistress by Natalie Meg Evans @Quercusfiction @NatMegEvans #TheWardrobeMistress

the wardrobe mistressFrom the award-winning author of The Dress Thief comes a love story set in the glittering world of London theatre. Perfect for fans of Gill Paul and Lucinda Riley.

London 1945. A young war widow steps aboard a train in search of a new life. Clutching the key to a mysterious inheritance, Vanessa Kingcourt can no longer resist the pull of the old Farren Theatre – an enchanted place seeped in memories of her actor father.

Now owned by troubled former captain Alistair Redenhall, The Farren is in need of a Wardrobe Mistress and a new lease of life. With no experience and no budget for supplies, Vanessa must use her intuition to create beautiful costumes from whatever scraps of silk and thread survived the blitz. It’s a seemingly impossible task, but a welcome distraction as she struggles to resist her blossoming feelings for Alistair.

What Vanessa discovers could unravel family secrets sewn deep into the very fabric of the London theatre scene . . . but will she repeat the same terrible mistakes her father made? And can she dare to love a man who will never be hers? 

Published August 10th 2017 by Quercus (UK)  

I absolutely adored the look and sound of this book. That cover is so evocative of the time it’s set in, and with the fascinating theater setting and the promise of a long held secret I was really looking forward to immersing myself in this novel.

The Wardrobe Mistress begins with a six year old Vanessa visiting the theater with her father and being mesmerised by the beautiful and mysterious atmosphere. When her father takes her backstage to meet the wardrobe mistress, Eva St Clair, Vanessa is bewitched. Years later, after serving in the WAAF, Vanessa is drawn back to the Farren theater and takes on the role of wardrobe mistress herself. But she’s about to discover her connections to the theater run deeper than she ever imagined as she goes on a journey to find out who she really is.

The first chapter of this book sets a wonderful atmosphere as, through the eyes of a young Vanessa, the reader is introduced to the glamour and wonder of the theater. Vanessa’s father is enigmatic and mysterious, even more so as he disappears shortly afterwards back to the world of the theater and it was clear there was an intriguing secret to unfurl in the coming pages and I settled down to absorb it.

The book is full of wonderful descriptions of vivacious and larger than life characters, however it was the ill fated romance between Vanessa and the suave and serious Naval Commander come theater owner, Alastair, which really captured my imagination. This is a romance which blossomed slowly, beginning with animosity but dripping with chemistry and made all the more irresistible due to it’s seemingly impossibility.

I loved the scenes set in the theater environment, both when Vanessa is a young girl and later as an employee. I did find the pace of the book slowed down quite early on, while Vanessa serves in the WAAF, and I worried that I wasn’t going to love this book as much as I’d hoped. However, this stage is only very brief and as Vanessa embarks on her career in the theater and secrets and intrigue are slowly revealed, I became hooked again and particularly enjoyed the final third of this book.

The Wardrobe Mistress is a fascinating glimpse into the world of theater in the post war years, as attitudes and fashions change and make way for a new generation of theater employees and audiences. It’s filled with mystery and atmosphere – I was desperate to know what secrets were held by the key given to Vanessa and why her mother had seemingly turned her back on her. I was also caught up in the thrilling intensity of the romance between the two main characters as they danced around each other, trying and failing to deny their attraction. This is the first book I’ve read by Natalie Meg Evans, I think I’ve been missing out and will certainly be looking out for more in the future!

(I read this book courtesy of the publishers)

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